The “Cameron Effect” seemed to work for the Tories on a UK-wide level, delivering gains in England and Wales, and David Cameron into Downing Street, albeit in coalition and not, as he had intended, with a Conservative majority.  However the Tories struggled once again in Scotland, holding onto the only seat they had won in 2005 and winning nothing else.  In short, the Cameron effect stretched only as far as Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale and no further.

But, David Cameron is now Prime Minister.  So what impact will his Prime Ministerial role have upon Conservative fortunes in Scotland?  Will the slump that saw the party wiped out in 1997 and 2001 continue?  Or will a youthful Tory PM – with a new-born child in Downing Street – be the catalyst for Scotland to fall back in love (or at least, fall back into liking/ tolerate) with the Tories?

I think in some senses it is too early to tell – and that might be as much to do with time as it is to do with the cuts agenda.  David Cameron – and to an extent, George Osbourne – were smart enough to let the devolved administrations in Edinburgh and Cardiff make their cuts now or defer them until next year, with both deferring (which was equally smart – it means that incoming administrations in May 2011 will have to deal with the fall-out).  So, in that respect, the full force of cuts won’t really be felt until next year – certainly in Scotland and Wales.

That, in turn, allows the Scottish Conservatives to campaign in May with a positive – their (relatively popular) man in government at Westminster without the focus on cuts, cuts and cuts.  On the other hand, Scots have tended to be more suspicious of the style over substance approach (even though we delivered Tony Blair a huge majority of Scottish MPs) and Cameron’s Eton background may not appeal to everyone.  Equally, while I – and I think, most commentators – have been fairly impressed with the way the Tories have gone about their business at Holyrood (engaging in budget debates, being constructive in opposition to a minority administration) there is a sense that they seem tired and in need of fresh impetus.  Perhaps the fact that they are in government at UK level will breathe new life into them at Holyrood, but I’m not convinced.

A Scottish Conservative yesterday...

I know Jeff has written in the past about the need for leadership change within the Scottish Tories.  While I really like Annabel Goldie and think she has taken the Scottish Conservatives further than I thought she could, I’m beginning to agree with him.  Nothing against Ms Goldie, but I think the party need a fresh look – and a change.  Several of the old guard – Bill Aitken, Ted Brocklebank – have already announced their retirement, though in contrast, Nanette Milne (68, Aberdeenshire West), Mary Scanlon (62, Inverness & Nairn) and Jamie McGrigor (60, Argyll & Bute) will all be standing in May and at least two of them are likely to return on regional lists.

So new blood is required.  I think the days are gone when the term “young Conservative” was seen as a oxymoron.  And perhaps that has been the impact of the Cameron effect.  However, the term “Scottish Conservative” looks like it is becoming like the lesser-spotted dodo.  If PM Cameron is to have an impact on the Tories in Scotland, some combination of the two – the youth and the Scottish – will have to emerge.  Otherwise, despite their good work in this third term of devolution (and that positive view of the Scottish Tories is debateable) I can see the party losing votes and seats come May.